Rachel Kehren came all the way from University of Michigan for a two week placement at Grove House.
Rachel is studying for a masters in social work and has an internship in a hospital where she is working as part of the palliative care team.
When she was offered the opportunity to study end of life care in another part of the world she opted for the UK. Rennie Grove was one of the organisations she contacted to express an interest in volunteering with us.
Following a face time session with Poppy, Patient Services Manager at Grove House and Fenella, Volunteering Development Advisor back in April, a plan was agreed and arrangements were confirmed for Rachel to join us in August.
Rachel said: “A really comprehensive itinerary was put together for me that included meeting with representatives from departments at Rennie Grove and participating in patient group sessions. I’ve met so many lovely people – patients, staff and volunteers – who have all made me feel so welcome. Particular highlights for me were accompanying Rennie Grove Hospice at Home nurses on a first visit to a patient in their home and on a follow up visit to another patient in a care home to review their pain management regime. I also enjoyed attending a movement class with patients and spending time at Day Hospice.
“Hospices in the US are for profit organisations and those patients needing palliative care have this paid for by their medical insurance. However those patients who opt for residential care have to pay for their “bed and board” themselves as this is not covered by their policy.
“Coming to England was a wakeup call on how disappointing the US healthcare system is. I’ve always known it wasn’t as good as it could be, but seeing the results of a national health system in real life made it so much more aggravating. I work with patients every day that are limited by what hospice and medical services they can receive because of their low-income status. The US does not always care for those less fortunate as well as it could, especially when it comes to healthcare. Learning about the benefits Rennie Grove patients and carers receive was really heart-warming because it shows that the English government recognizes the hardships that come with life-limiting and chronic illnesses.
“We still have Hospice at Home services which are more popular than residential care for the same reasons as they are here in the UK – because people want to receive care in the comfort of their own home surrounded by family and friends. There are so many similarities between the US and the UK in how people view hospice and death. People in the US often wait until the very last days of their lives to access hospice care, well below the recommended time of two weeks to receive benefit. It’s also common to find the narrative that receiving hospice care is “giving up” and “I need to keep fighting” instead of transitioning to comfort care. It’s hard when there’s such a big misconception of hospice care, which seems to be a commonality between our countries.
“After I returned home, I was able to share my experience with my supervisor and co-workers. They were really amazed by the idea of Day Hospice and impressed by how much the charity shops were able to support Rennie Grove.
“My supervisor asked me if there was anything that I learned that I would want to bring back to the US I said “yes” immediately. I would love to have a chance to bring something like Day Hospice to a hospice in my area. I’m graduating in December so I will soon have ample amounts of opportunities to work in a hospice and hopefully install a US version of Day Hospice someday.
“My supervisor also asked me if there was anything I’ve learned in the US that I would want to bring to Rennie Grove. I instantly regretted not having more conversations during my stay about some of the things I’ve learned in my program.
“One of the biggest things is because social workers have a different role in the US. We are experts in mental health, and we are trained to do counselling and therapy with patients and families. I would want to bring the theories I’ve learned about grief and the programs I’ve seen involving bereavement to Rennie Grove. Rennie Grove does a fantastic job at recognizing different types of grief and offering services to accommodate people at every stage they are in with grief and bereavement. But I think it would be a unique opportunity to share my knowledge in case it inspires how Rennie Grove staff and volunteers interact with the people they serve.
“I also noticed that Rennie Grove didn’t have a significant place for religion or spirituality. Hospices in the US will all hire a chaplain on their service to assist people in their religious questions, prayers, religious ceremonies, spiritual support, etc. Even though I didn’t see a need for it during my time, I wonder if it would ever be a needed service in Rennie Grove’s future.
“I cannot say thank you enough to Poppy and Fenella for taking a chance on me and allowing me to visit your amazing charity. But I also want to thank everyone that I met during my stay for providing me with an incredible experience and showing me so much kindness. I truly did not want to leave. The patients and volunteers have touched my heart and I will never forget them. The staff took the time to answer my questions, allow me to observe their practices, and proved that they are truly experts in taking care of people during some of the most fragile times in their lives. I am forever grateful.”